Tag Archives: critique group

2017 can kiss my ass

Every year, I try to do an assessment of the year that was. I follow this up with something I call a business plan for the new year. This is my assessment of 2017.

I always have a few goals, and 17 was no exception. I wanted to release The Enhanced League, and The Yak Guy Project. I’m going to declare victory, but it rings kind of hollow.

I released The Enhanced League around the time of Major League Baseball’s Allstar Break. It was a little bit off from the Opening Day release I had planned. Honestly, it sold like crazy… for about two weeks. Then it completely died. I haven’t moved a single copy since the end of July.

Reviews of Enhanced League were all positive. I don’t like throwing a lot of money behind my 99¢ specials, because my royalty is about 34¢ per copy. I view my short form stuff as a way to drive readers to take a chance on my novels.

I knew a fictional baseball league would have a limited audience, so I was aware this could happen. I also know that baseball returns like Spring flowers, and it could have some longevity over the years. (I count down opening day like others countdown Christmas.)

The Yak Guy is a finished book and has been for several months. (Yeah, you can’t read it yet, but I’m looking for something positive about 2017.) I drug my feet here, for a lot of reasons. I waited for a couple of my favorite beta readers to have an opening, and took their advice to heart. I also wanted to submit it to a publisher. This caused me to hem & haw and drag my feet. Yeah, I’m a procrastinator.

I waited for openings with these readers, because I lost my critique group. We held on for years, then everyone kind of drifted away. I found the process very helpful, but there is nothing I can do about it now.

Yak Guy is the story of a spoiled and lazy young man who winds up in an alternate world. He has to learn a thing or two to even survive, let alone thrive. This is the one I based upon the Fool’s Journey from the Tarot. Yak Guy meets many mentors along his journey, and astute observers might recognize them from the Tarot.

I fiddled around for a month or so, then submitted it to a publisher. All I have to do is wait around and see what happens. It’s one of those where they don’t reject you, they simply don’t respond at all. I sent a nice cover letter and a synopsis. About two days after I sent it away, I realized they wanted the synopsis in the body of the email. Mine is an attachment, so it’s probably an automatic rejection. How do you do a cover letter if that isn’t the body of the email?

Aside from that Quantum Wanderlust is the the only other thing I had cooking. This involves one short story, Swift Wings, that is part of a larger anthology. I even did a small bit of promotion and commissioned some Lisa Burton artwork to help things along. It seems to be holding its own, but reviews have been hard to come by. There are some fabulous authors in this collection, so you might want to check it out.

That’s my entire 2017 publishing file. One actual book, and one short story.

My blog stats are stagnant. I have almost exactly the same number of views as I did in 2016. In past years, my stats grew exponentially every year. This concerns me, because this blog is the heart of my presence online. There were referrals from all of the popular social media sites, so that’s good. The biggest referrer was Flipboard. Flipboard is kind of strange, because one post can go crazy there, the others can be completely ignored. Facebook and Twitter are more stable.

The majority of clicks on my site were on media. I checked it out and they are all Lisa Burton art. I wish they were my books, but I can handle this. It has to do with that tiny bit of subconscious recognition. Ya’ll come back, there will be more art and you might decide to read something too.

Lisa Burton Radio grew by leaps and bounds. I was nearly able to post every week. The only gaps were ones I caused, and I can live with that. Children’s books appeared for the first time, and overall they were really popular posts.

There are some things I do here on a sporadic basis. The Idea Mill posts and my October event called Macabre Macaroni. These continue to be popular, but not overwhelmingly so. A lot of authors visit here, but not all of them are speculative fiction authors. To them, the Idea Mill might be amusing, but it doesn’t exactly relate to what they write. I’m going to keep doing these, because I enjoy them. I think I’m allowed a bit of fun on occasion.

The Macabre Macaroni that got the best response was the one about the comatose lady who imagined life with the daughter she lost. I never know which one is going to be the favorite from short story to short story.

I’ve been around long enough that my old posts are getting regular action now. This is a good thing. They aren’t all gems, but it’s nice when a few of them have longevity. I like to think I have a chance of gaining followers when they search for something and find me.

Story Empire is a group blog I helped create. This site is growing like crazy, and I’m honored to be part of it. It started smaller, so it’s easier to gain growth. (It’s easy to get 100% growth when you have one follower; that theory.) It’s doing very well. We did a group promotion we called the Bookmobile, and it was a rousing success for me. All we did was post on each others’ sites, but I moved more copies during this event than any other time of the year. Unfortunately, it was the only group promo we did. I hope we can cobble something together again in 2018. (Hint, if the rest of you stop by.)

On the writing front, it wasn’t great. Flat blog stats, only one book release and it was short lived, and one anthology story. The anthology is still selling, so there’s that.

On the personal front, 2017 pretty much sucked. Part of this was the 2016 political landscape. It felt more like the line from Ghostbusters than anything else. “Choose the form of the destroyer.” Nice to have a choice, but a destroyer none-the-less.

We thought we were doing a good thing by adopting two bulldog puppies instead of one. We wanted to save a tiny baby from a cargo flight to Florida. With their short faces and breathing issues, it was a coin toss as to whether she would be alive at the other end. We brought home Frankie and Nyx. Nyx died in my arms on the Fourth of July. She got heat stroke in a shady back yard with access to plenty of water. My son swears she was only outside for about fifteen minutes. I guess she would have been better off trying to go to Florida. There isn’t a day that passes without my thinking of her.

Shortly after that, their older brother Otto hurt his back. He literally crawled around using his front legs and dragging his hind legs for over a month. He woke up in the middle of the night screaming on more than one occasion. Fortunately, many dollars and drugs later he is back to his active old self.

I feel for him more than you know. I did something to my own back in early December, and missed a week of work. There were times when I needed help to get out of bed or to lift the toilet seat. I had my own drugs to help things along, and am still not perfect. I missed an occasional work day even after the first week.

Somewhere along the way, we lost half of our annual income. My goal was to pay off as much as we could before this happened, but it landed about four months early. We’ll be okay, but it is a life changing set of circumstances. On the bright side, we had that income when Otto was in pain. I shudder to think of the choice I might have been forced to make had the resource dried up back then.

I wound up getting some kind of flu on a working trip during the summer. On a positive note, it led to Marissa Bergen to write a song called Vending Machine Imodium. Marissa completely made it worthwhile.

So overall, 2017 didn’t have much to recommend it. I’m going to take it for a walk in the desert. Just look at the flowers, 2017. What? This revolver is for protection from coyotes.

My 2018 business plan will post shortly after the new year arrives, and it’s going to be a lot more positive. I try to assess the year honestly, but my outlook is unfazed.

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Obituary


This is a checking in post, so I’ll try to keep things brief. I have a lot going on over the next few weeks. You may have seen the promos for Quantum Wanderlust, and that’s just part of it. I also have some things to post for friends who are releasing their own books. There are still a couple of things I need to write, but I may not get to all this writing and scheduling until the weekend.

Tonight was my grandson’s birthday, so we all went to supper immediately after work. This leaves us about enough time to clean up and go to bed so we can work tomorrow. He was excited and got some cool nerf gun stuff. His mom got a cute video of him face diving into a plate of whipped cream and looking for a cherry. This is something the restaurant did for us, and it was pretty funny.

Earlier this week another member bailed out of our critique group. Two of us have been there since the beginning, but the other long term members left about a year ago. It wasn’t all at once, and they trickled out over a few months.

New members joined and failed to last three months. We’ve been haunting the local membership base, Facebook, and other likely haunts. Most of the inquiries are looking for wine and cheese, but very little actual writing. Some want to play at being writers, and we come across a bit hardcore for them.

I’ve had my butt kicked at critique group, and I’ve been the one kicking butt a few times too. Honestly, I learned so much from this process I’m going to really miss it. Critique involves hearing the tough things, then adjusting to improve the result. Too many people were looking for the Mutual Admiration Society. Many have been to groups with a lot of members, but only a couple made submissions every month. That just doesn’t work for the other fellow and I.

I recently wrote 25,500 words over a period of about a month and a half. We submit 3000 words per month. The rule was you have to critique all the other submissions, usually about four, but you get four critiques of your own 3000 words. With the novella I just finished, I have eight months of material. If I only got to submit say, twice per year in a big group, that isn’t very helpful.

We had our date set for three members when the newest guy bailed out on the group. The remaining fellow asked me if we ought to fold the whole thing, and I agreed. We had a good run, but it looks like I’ll have to find something else.

I know there are some online options, but those deserve a bit of scrutiny before diving in. The other trick is to find at least a couple of people who are better writers than I am. This isn’t to say that I’m awesome, it’s just a growth and improvement thing. A mix of people with some veterans along with some newer folks seems to work well.

The benefit of the newer folks involves doing the critique work. I’ve learned as much from trying to help others along as from being helped. Sometimes it’s like looking in the mirror, and you cement the lessons you learned, and understand why you got your butt kicked six months before.

I’ll keep my eyes open. Something else may come along. I’m not going to get in a hurry either. I still have access to some darned good beta readers, but that’s a different process.

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Chipping Away

Mom and Dad had date night, and we got pumpkin hats.

I chipped away at my task list. I have a couple of Lisa interviews ready to go, but I’m holding off on which one to post. I’m waiting for purchase data for a book. I don’t have to decide until tomorrow, so I’ve gone as far as I can.

I successfully ignored The Hat. Stepping away is always better for the editing process.

All of my critique work is finished. I printed everything today and put them in my truck for our meeting Tuesday. I got down to the last few pieces of paper yesterday, printed the submissions out, and then learned my print heads needed cleaning. I had to throw them away and shop for paper. We swung by Fred Meyer after date night and all is well.

We ran a few errands, and even picked up some dog toys. We’re still picking up things like those undermats that keep the rugs from sliding around. After we finished my son and I logged a few hours of Borderlands. My character got a cool new sniper rifle that lights its victims on fire, and she got a new head too. Seriously, I don’t write this stuff. You get heads and bodies from a vending machine as a kind of upgrade.

In a way, it’s too bad the real world doesn’t work this way. I could insert my credit card and grow a foot taller. Then I wouldn’t be overweight.

When we re-upped with Direct TV, we were given a year of the NFL League Pass for free. We watched the game last week, but this week it’s not on. We probably need to call them, but were denied the ability to watch. My internet indicates the Steelers won, so there’s that. I might get to check out some baseball later today.

I say might, because Old What’s Her Face is binge watching The Outlander. While Outlander is on, I retreated to another room and started reading A Desolate Hour. It seems to take me forever to read a book these days, but I’m committed. Great story so far.

I also wrote a couple of future blog posts. When the Muse visits, it’s best to give in to her. Not kidding here, she gets violent.

I still haven’t gotten back to the edits on Yak Guy. Tomorrow is my best chance, but it’s dependent upon whether my daughter decides to talk my ear off.

So I chipped away at the task list. Some projects are complete, some on hold, and others yet to come. Maybe tomorrow will let me scratch them all off.

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Wednesday Update

Today is my rotating day off this week, but I took the next two off. There are big things happening at my house, and I need to be here for that.

My morning started off like most. I get up when the dogs demand it. Today it was somewhere about six A.M. After feeding dogs, making coffee, and the usual routine, I decided to start from zero on my WIP called The Hat. I found a lot of errors, and feel bad for having sent it to my critique group already.

I also made a stupid mistake. I edited my way through, and it stopped at about 3000 words. I’d spent my first hour editing the submission to critique group instead of the manuscript. That was easy enough to address, but I felt stupid.

I had plenty of interruptions, and that’s my excuse. My interruption looked like this:

Frankie isn’t much of a cuddler, but today all she wanted was poodle time. She isn’t all that big, and can wiggle beside me in my chair. The iPad fits on the arm of the chair, and it’s a pretty comfy writing position.

Once the edits were finished, I was also refreshed on the story. I decided to keep on writing. Lizzie learned how double-action revolvers work and took a few practice shots. Their symbiosis grew when she trusted the hat to drive while she slept. It was still her body doing the driving, but her mind got to catch a few hours sleep. Turns out the hat is kind of an aggressive driver though. Lizzie and the hat are starting to mesh really well, but they still bicker.

My story is over 11,500 words now, and I feel like I’m 5000 words ahead of where I expected. Beginnings are always this way for me. I start strong, I finish strong, it’s the middle that bogs me down. This was always intended to be a novella, but if it reaches novel length I won’t panic. I don’t know if these are formal rules, but short stories generally don’t have as much setting as novels. If it looks like I’m approaching 70K at the end, I may beef up my settings to raise the word count. I may also need one more plot twist, but I’m thinking about it even now. I don’t know what might be expected in a novella, but I assume it’s somewhere in the middle.

I got a new piece of Lisa Burton art in the email today. My October micro-fiction will have a nice point of reference for people who like to read those. I think it came out pretty well.

After the writing ended, my daughter, her BFF, my wife, and I moved furniture. We’re finally getting rid of the seventeen year old carpet in the majority of the house. We’re having a fake wood floor installed tomorrow. This is a kind of vinyl plank that is hard to tell from real wood after it’s installed. It wears better than wood, and that’s a good thing for a family of dog lovers. We also tend to pick up road sand on our winter boots and this will hold up better than wood. I’ll get some pictures, but might not post them until Friday. Lisa has a guest tomorrow and we want that post to get all the attention.

We also have company coming for the rest of the week. That will eat into writing time, but I may get lucky on Monday.

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Baby Steps Today

If anyone is wondering where I've been, I've had company this weekend. My parents wanted to see the puppies while they are still puppies. It's kind of hard to argue with that. I love puppies myself. We spent most of our time visiting, and went for a nice dinner last night. My oldest son and his entire family decided to join us, my daughter, and her pseudo-boyfriend, so we had a big group. It's nice when we can all get together. It's kind of strange when you start hearing the term Great Grandma, or Great Grandpa.

Today, I dragged my generators to the garage door and started them up. I aimed the exhaust out into the driveway. My intention was to run them out of gas, but they're still going about six hours later. I put them away two years ago and haven't run them since. Old gas is the enemy of engines, and I expected more problems. We are taking the camper out next weekend, and this time we'll need the generators.

I swept out the garage, and intend to finish if the little buggers ever run out of fuel. Right now my dust pile is next to them, waiting for them to finish. Garage is looking pretty good though.

While waiting, I took my turn at puppy patrol. They're both pretty good, but Nyx sometimes doesn't remember to go to the door for a potty break. So far, so good today.

I also worked through my critiques. We met Tuesday, and I stashed them until my parents went home. Yak Guy is still a hit with the group. I need to figure out how to get all the non-fun parts finished.

I tried to talk my wife into stealing away this afternoon to see Pirates, but she wouldn't have it. I feel like I accomplished some reasonable things today.

Tomorrow is my flex day, so there is a small chance to work on the beta reads I received for The Enhanced League. It all depends on luck, but maybe I can move that project closer to completion.

What did you guys do this weekend? Hope you had a good one.

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Back to work tomorrow

Okay, so I admit to being responsible for my own attitude. Last week was shitty, and I can either walk in with a bad attitude, or find a way to get over it. It won't be easy, but I hope I'm capable of getting on with things.

I finished all my promotional posts, but they need a little time to ferment before I send them out. They're all pretty minimal right now and maybe a little more will occur to me. I also finished up this week's Lisa Burton Radio and got it scheduled.

Then a friend suggested a guest post, and I roughed something out but it's still in the works. I also managed reading a half dozen chapters of a new book.

Beyond that, I did my errands and spent a few hours running around town. I'm calling it a good day, even though there was no new fiction involved.

Ennis Fine Furniture is having a warehouse auction that I'd really like to attend. It's on a week night after work, and doesn't fit into either of our schedules. This is mostly about commuting, but we're going to have to give it a pass. My wife has never been to an auction, and it might be interesting. (Twenty miles home, twenty miles back, twenty miles home again. Her alarm goes off at 2:30, mine at 4:00, and we just started Daylight Savings Time… no.)

Thursday is critique group, but there are only two of us now. That won't take very long, and it's near the office.

I have company coming next weekend, so I'm in good shape to slack off a little. It's probably good to step back from Yak Guy, even though I can see the finish line. When I can pick it up, I'll be in a good place to work on it.

Hope you guys had a good Monday.

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The Weekend… ends

Back to the paycheck job for me tomorrow. I had high hopes for some writing, but it never happened. At least not to the degree I had planned.

I spent most of the weekend working on social media stuff and expanding my footprint out in cyberspace. After a lot of fussing and fiddling, I now have sites on Google+ and Pinterest. I have no idea exactly what I'm going to do with them, but I have my reasons.

Google is the biggest search engine on the planet, and I've been told that a presence there helps increase your chances of getting found on a search. So I signed up, and figured out how to push these blog posts onto G+. If any of you are interested this might be my profile https://plus.google.com/117501282560056017429

Pinterest is one I had to be talked into. Nothing is a silver bullet in the world of discovery, but many of us are quite visual. I've written entire stories because I saw a piece of artwork, and this one seems like a good fit for me. If it doesn't expand my footprint, I'll still use it for inspiration. I still don't know how either of these work completely. And like with G+, I'm not completely sure if this is my profile https://www.pinterest.com/entertainin0737/

Part of the issue is my dependence on an iPad. These two seem to want to work best on an app. In fact Pinterest wants to drive me to the app, even when I want the browser version. I kind of slapped it around and tried to force it to give me the link I needed. If anyone is interested, I'm Craig Boyack on Google+. I wanted to be Entertaining Stories or even C. S. Boyack, but Google wants it to match my gmail address exactly. I wound up using a business site on Pinterest, and got to be Entertaining Stories over there.

I'm content with Entertaining Stories, because of branding. I also spent a considerable amount of time hunting for that image that eludes me. I saw it on Facebook around Halloween, and never grabbed it. It's going to be the basis of a shorter story after I finish up some projects. (Even if I never find it.)

So, I'm open to some comments and even critiques on these sites. I've been told a pin board for coming books can create a lot of interest. I'm too late in the game to start for my current projects, but will probably try it for the next wave. I created a small Lisa Burton board, and added some select images with links. Do you think I should do a cover gallery and link those too?

Obviously, I need some friends on these sites. Social media takes a ton of time, and I'll dedicate what I have to the forms that seem to be working or more interactive.

I also assembled and scheduled the next two Lisa Burton Radio spots, built and posted the Rave Reviews Book Club Spotlight Author post, and spent a considerable amount of time at Story Empire.

Just to make sure I wasn't slacking, I printed, read, and marked up critique submissions. We meet Thursday night again, and I'm ready.

Yak Guy got left to his own devices. Today, just to keep my hand in, I wrote another “anthem” piece for The Enhanced League. Regulars will remember one I shared, and they're in second person point of view. I really want to call this one Superman, but titled it Super Man in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit. Do you think this might be safe? It's about a guy trying to steal a base in a baseball game and flying through the air like… well you get it. It's 850 words and I'm counting them. Not much for three days.

We have one of those phony gas log fireplaces. I couldn't care less about it, but my wife scheduled it for service today – because I'm home. (Wasn't that sweet of her.) A big part of my writing time went to keeping Otto out of the guy's toolbox. That meant I didn't have enough time for much more than an anthem piece, but I'm counting it as progress anyway.

So there was my weekend; Otto, snow, fondue, more snow, Lisa Burton Radio, snow, Story Empire, snow, Superman, below zero temperatures, service man, snow, Pinterest, snow, and Google+.

How about it peeps? Do you use these other social media? How do you use them? Do you have any tips or tricks for us in the comments? Am I going to get sued by DC Comics? I know you can't copyright a title, but the title is Action Comics that Superman appears in.

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